Wednesday 2 May 2012

Japan Discovered Cherry Blossom 
Tour Feedback from Tour Leader
Yuki Ito

"We finished the April Japan Discovered tour a few weeks ago. Each participant had his/her own highlights of the tour, but the group was able to particularly enjoy 2 seasonal highlights — cherry blossoms and Takayama Spring Festival.

We were blessed with the opportunity to enjoy Kyoto and Nara with cherry blossoms in full bloom! From the time of ancient period, Japanese were fascinated with their beauty, and various forms of arts were created surrounding the motif. Cherry blossoms have symbolic meanings in Japanese culture as well. They endure cold winter, bloom as if they celebrate their lives, and fall gracefully. People in Japan have seen the grace of life in the phenomenon. Historical heritages in Kyoto and Nara with cherry blossoms are what many Japanese long to see, and we were able to have the special experience. It was truly beautiful and breathtaking! 
 We were also very lucky to spend the 2 days in Takayama during Takayama Spring Festival! Takayama Spring Festival, the festival for the local guardian deity called “Sanno-sama,” is designated as one of 3 major beautiful festivals and tangible folklore cultural assets by Japanese government along with Takayama Autumn Festival. The history of this festival goes back to the late 16th to early 17th century, and the festival attracts many visitors from all over Japan and overseas even today. With our local guide, we explored the town in the festive mood. One of the main attractions of the festival was yatai, 12 festival floats. 
  They were a collection of Japanese traditional craftsmanship with their delicate adornments such as intricate wooden structures, exquisite carvings, drapes, metal ornaments etc. In the evening, those yatai were lit up with lanterns and made their rounds through the town, which was spectacular! On the second day of the festival, we saw Gojunko Procession. 
It was headed by lion-dance performers to purify the path. Several hundred locals in ceremonial dresses followed, walked through the town performing festival tunes and escorted the Mikoshi portable shrine where Sanno, the deity, was believed to ride. Karakuri marionette performances were also dedicated to the deity at a plaza. Maneuvering the marionettes required complicated skills and long-term training, and the performance was absolutely gorgeous! 
Besides these seasonal highlights, we enjoyed exposure to diverse aspects of scenery and culture in Japan— from ancient to the contemporary and from rural to urban (for details, please check out the tour itinerary!) Indeed, a participant of this tour said in the end, “It has been a pleasure. I loved the varieties of what I was able to see and experience through the tour. I did not want to miss any of it!” Japan presents different beauty and has interesting cultural events in each season. Please come and enjoy what Japan can offer!

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